membrillo : quince paste

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The smell of ripening quince is unique… it’s a touch sickly floral sweet with a heavy citrus infused apple smell, defiantly prominent. When I arrived at the greyhound station to pick up the 30 lb box of gleaned organic quince my amazing sister-in-law picked and shipped to me from the west coast, the guy at the station said… “is your box the one that has made our whole warehouse smell like apples?” Yes, indeed it was! These are funny furry apply pear like fruits that are very old world European. They can not be eaten raw, but there seems to be a few traditional ways to process them in to delightful edibles.

Last fall I made quince jelly with my sister in law (the day before her wedding… which were used as wedding favours that looked so sweet yet didn’t quite set up entirely so it was more of a quince syrup, which was lovely all the same). My pantry  still has a little surplus from that, my first ever experience with quince…  so with this new flush of fruit had my heart set on new quince horizons… enter Membrillo. Served with sheep’s milk (Manchego) cheese it is an every day affair of delight in Spain. Quince paste reminds me of it’s Caribbean cousin the much adored  guava paste which my West Indian girlfriends introduced me to back in high school. It’s oh so pretty pink flesh makes the perfect addition to any cheese platter. Thick and sweet yet still somewhat spreadable it is obviously why the other side of the world enjoys this as often as they do. It’s Delicious.

Start by gently rinsing and scrubbing the yellow fur off a whack of fruit, about 30 pieces of similar size. Then set them on baking sheet and cover with an identical baking sheet (I do this simply because I don’t own aluminum foil, but if you do go ahead and user that instead). Slowly bake until tender through in an oven set to 350 for about 2 hours.

Mean while in a small pot I half an entire vanilla bean and set it to steep in 3/4 cup of boiling water (from the kettle) along with a good splash of organic lemon juice.  I set the pot on my back burner which when my vintage oven is on puts off a good amount of low heat and let it all just infuse while the fruit is baking down.

Once the quince is fork tender remove from oven and set to cool and when you can handle it, run it through a food mill and measure out the puree yielded.  I got  XX cups from about 10 lbs of fruit. (if you don’t have a food mill you can use a food processor and then a screen to catch any stocks and seeds)

Pour the puree into a heavy pot and add the vanilla lemon juice, remove vanilla pod but scrape the seeds into juice and stir well.

Add equal amounts of sugar to puree. (I know your probably shrieking as I would be readying any jam recipe going “that is way to much sugar!!! better half it”) Well seeing as membrillo is a whole new venture to me I followed the direction of many many many a recipe I dug up and just matched it 1:1. If you are successful using less please let me know!

On a low heat bubble and bring the mixture together for about 20-30 minutes stirring often.

Pour the paste mix onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, using a icing knife or spatula flatten the mix and allow to set and cool for a few hours, then cut and sample!

You can store the paste in food saver bags and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 months.

I think this will make divine holiday treats for friends and the perfect home made addition to my next swanky spread.

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